Media legislation

The key media legislation is currently composed of Act No. 308/2000 on Broadcasting and Retransmission from 14 September 2000 (amended) and sister Act on Digital Broadcasting No. 220/2007 Z.z. (amended), as well as Act No. 167/2008 on Periodical Press and News Agency Services (Press Act) from 9 April 2008 (amended).

Act No. 308/2000 and Act 220/2007 are complementary complex legislation regulating the area of television broadcasting, radio broadcasting and retransmission of programme services as well as (partly) online broadcasting and audiovisual services on demand.

The Press Act as well as the Broadcasting Act guarantee to publisher, broadcaster and news agency respectively (and, thus, practically, to all journalists who are employed to have a contract with a publisher, broadcaster, or news agency) right to get truthful, in time and comprehensive information from public bodies. The Press Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Code of Ethics of a Journalist guarantee protection of information sources.

The Act of Broadcasting and Retransmission, first of all, underlines the importance of a micro level of media contents plurality closely connected to a meso level of media institutions (that are legally responsible for this) – plurality of information (§ 4 subsection 2 as well as § 16 subsection 3a as well as § 21 – right to reply – of the Act 308/2000 Coll.). Only later, the plurality at a macro level of media system is mentioned. This is tackled mostly in section 10 (Plurality of Information and Transparency of Media Ownership) and section 11 (Licence Awarding Procedure). The Act of Broadcasting and Retransmission actually deals with both horizontal and vertical media concentration/ownership, i.e. it understands a plurality of media contents in a broader way than just within an electronic/digital media system.

The Press Act deals first (§ 6 subsection 2 and § 11) with transparency of ownership (at a macro level of media system) but also creates great room for keeping the plurality of information (§ 7 Right to Correction, § 8 Right to Reply, § 9 Right to Additional Announcement) – a micro level of media contents closely connected to a meso level of media institutions (that are again legally responsible for this).

There are also following important legislative acts: Act No. 532/2010 Z.z. from 15 December 2010 on Radio and Television of Slovakia (amended). According to the law, the above unified organization is PSM which is defined as a national, independent, informative, cultural and educational institution, providing services to the public in the area of television and radio broadcasting.

Act No. 270/1995 Z. on State Language of the Slovak Republic from 15 November 1995 (Language Act, amended) and Act No. 184/1999 from 10 July 1999 on the Use of Languages of National Minorities (amended) are in part problematic. The strict language law seems to be a major objection for live television broadcast for minorities (with some exceptions). Obvious exceptions include special programmes in minority languages in PSM (but normally even these news programmes must have subtitles in the official language) or local radio broadcasting for minorities. There are also some ‘common sense’ exceptions enumerated in the law, such as, for example, foreign broadcast of Slovak Radio (SRo). A new version of the language law passed in 2009 (No. 318/2009 update to No. 184/1999 Law) complicated the situation in this regard to such a degree that, for example, the RVR (media regulator) had decided on its own initiative to discuss officially whether it amounted to breaking of the language law when an Englishman living in Slovakia said three sentences in English (not translated into the Slovak language) in a night discussion programme in the live broadcast of private television, Joj Plus, in December 2009. The verdict was that it was within the boundaries of the language law. Yet there was some liberalization of legislation too. For example, local and regional private radio broadcasters that broadcast for minorities are no longer required to translate their broadcasting into the state language. However, in spite of these liberalization efforts, language law is in practice, still seen as a major problem for TV live broadcast for minorities. Currently, it is possible to broadcast live television programmes in minority languages only with the immediate translation into the national language (in the past, before 1999, live television broadcasting in minority languages was practically impossible). There also is an option to broadcast in minority languages that are at the same time official languages of the EU. However, the broadcaster must have an exclusive licence of this type. Theoretically, this means that there could be live radio or television broadcast in Hungarian, Czech, German or Polish, Croatian languages (for so called recognised minorities) within Slovakia without any above mentioned limitations. Ironically, the largest minority, Roma minority, could not use this exemption (Roma is not official language of the EU). Similarly, neither Ukrainian/Russian and Jewish minorities could benefit from this exemption. This, as mentioned, does not mean that radio broadcast in PSM in minority languages and for minorities must be translated into state language either.

Also, the Parliament modernised the Law on the Use of Languages of National Minorities (No. 204/2011) in June 2011. This modernisation allowed, for example, the use of traditional geographical names in languages of minorities in media.

There is some other relevant legislation such as Act No. 68/2008 on Payment for Services to the Public Provided by the STV and SRo from 15 February 2008 (amended), Audiovisual Act No. 40/2015 Z. z., Act No. 351/2011 On Electronic Communications (amended), Act No. 646/2005 On Protection of Some Radio and Television Programme Services and Information Society Services, Act No. 385/2008 On News Agency of the Slovak Republic from 23 September 2008 (amended), Act No. 212/1997 on Compulsory Copies of Periodicals, Non-periodicals and Multiplications of Audiovisual Works from 3 July 1997 (amended), Act No. 185/2015 On Copyright, Act on Advertising No. 147/2001 Z.z. (amended) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) No. 211/2000 Z.(amended).

Additional problems with legislation are related to the boom of online versions of traditional media. For example, legislation does not solve an issue when court accepts some remedies in case of traditional media but this information (eg libel) is also present online or taken over by other online media.

There also is not quite a transparent regular and irregular policy of subsidizing minority and cultural press, including Hungarian ethnic minority newspaper Új Szó.

Some of these and other issues may be perhaps solved with the to-be-established Media Council. This Media Council should serve as an advisory body for the Government.